“We seriously can’t believe how hard it is to get somewhere to rent,” said Dalton, a Co. Longford native.
Last year Grady, from Co. Cavan, worked one day a week in a bar. That job was not available this year.
“We weighed up our options and decided New York was the place to come for the summer, so we paid nearly a grand for the J-1 and here we are,” said Grady with disappointment in his voice.
As of Friday the two friends had called up to 50 available accommodations but no one wanted to rent short-term. They hadn’t even begun to search for jobs.
“That is probably going to be another issue (jobs), but we are willing to work at anything at all so hopefully if we can get accommodation sorted we will be able to start on the job hunt,” said Dalton.
Grady and Dalton came with about $1,500 each in their back pockets.
“We are trying to keep our money for a deposit for accommodation, but at the rate things are going we are going to have to go back to Ireland,” said Dalton.
“We can’t ask our parents for any more money, so if something doesn’t become available soon we will be changing out return tickets to sooner rather than later,” he added.
The friends said if it wasn’t for the staff at the Aisling Center they would be at a loss.
“The staff here, Elizabeth, Maura and Sister Christine, have been amazing to us,” said Grady.
“They’ve really kept our spirits up and have shown us a kind heart and friendly words when times are tough, and even thrown us a few mugs of tea.”
As Grady and Dalton went back to cold calling about accommodations, the phone at the Aisling Center was ringing off the hook.
A group of 10 Irish students were making their way from Brooklyn to the Bronx because they were unsuccessful in finding a place to live there.
Another young man informed the center that he had another 10 friends arriving from Ireland on Friday, also in need to accommodation and a job.
Moments previous to that two girls from Co. Cork had popped into the center with luggage in tow. They spent the previous few days in Boston in search of work and a place to stay. They kept meeting dead ends, so they boarded a Greyhound bus to New York in search of better luck.
Ashley Varley, 19, and Olivia Brosnan, 21, both from Co. Limerick, have the same story.
Varley worked in a clothing store in Limerick City for the past two summers and Brosnan looked after children.
This year both jobs were unavailable, and the chance to travel and work in the U.S. presented itself.
“I had friends who went on the J-1 last year to New York and loved it so much. All I head about was the craic they had at Fagan’s Bar and the Rambling House for months, so Ashley and I decided to give it a go seeing as we had no work in Ireland this year,” explains Brosnan, who is studying business at the University of Limerick.
The girls arrived in New York a week before the Irish Voice caught up with them, and they were beginning to get frustrated.
“We spent the first two nights in a hostel in the city, then another three in a hotel up here and for the past two we have been sleeping on a floor in a bedroom with four other girls. It’s just ridiculous,” said Varley.
The house they are currently staying in temporarily houses 16 students. It’s a three-bedroom/ two-bath and has no air conditioning.
“We’d get over the air conditioning if we had a bed. The problem we face now is that some of the lads’ friends are coming from home to stay, so we have to leave and we have nowhere to go,” said Brosnan.
They were on their way to the Emerald Isle Immigration Center on Katonah Avenue in the Bronx to seek help.
John Hayes, J-1 co-coordinator at the Emerald Isle’s office in the Bronx, told the Irish Voice the center has seen a huge increase in the numbers of J-1 students arriving in New York this year as opposed to previous summers.
The worry, said Hayes, is that a lot of the students are “not prepared for the economic situation in the U.S.”
Hayes and the staff at both Emerald Isle centers are doing their best to seek employment for the students.
“I’ve been largely cold calling various links we have -- for example, people who used this office in the past or who have reached out to Irish students in the previous summers, but of course at the moment it’s proving increasingly difficult in the current economic climate,” said Hayes.
Although the job situation is bad, Hayes said the accommodation issue is “a lot trickier.”
“In the past few summers the J-1 students have not been superb tenants, making it difficult to find rentals, but we are delighted when people come through our doors with something available for them,” said Hayes.
To contact the Aisling Center call 914-237-5121. To contact the Emerald Isle Immigration Center call 718-478-5502, for Michelle Ext. 204 in Queens, or John at Ext. 106 in the Bronx.
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